Des Smyth moved into contention at the halfway mark of the US Senior Open after the Irishman carded a second round 69 to lie three shots off the pace set by American Tom Watson at Whistling Straits.
Smyth is in a group of five players tied for second place on five under par after registering an eagle and four birdies to offset three bogeys. His score of 67 followed up an opening round of 70 and saw Smyth make significant inroads on a day when the afternoon starters were hit by the worst of the conditions.
The 54 year old was joined by Loren Roberts (69), Vicente Fernandez (70), Lonnie Nielsen (71) and two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, who overcome a double bogey on the tenth with seven birdies in his round of 67.
The quintet are chasing Watson, who stormed to eight under par with a round of 66 that featured eight birdies, including four in a row from the 14th, before a bogey at the 18th brought the 57 year old back towards the chasing pack.
Flag-straightening winds and increasingly firmer greens made scoring more difficult after lunch and probably the biggest victim was overnight leader Eduardo Romero of Argentina, who recorded a five over par 77 that included a triple-bogey on the par four 18th to fall to one under par.
However, Scotland’s Sam Torrance, the two-time European Seniors Tour Order of Merit winner, fared admirably in the conditions and tagged a three under par 69 to his opening 73 to move into contention on two under par.
Mark James of England and Mark McNulty of Ireland are both back on level par 144, but Australian Graham Marsh and defending champion Allen Doyle of the United States both missed the cut which fell at four over.
Watson, the 1982 U.S. Open champion, is the 36-hole leader for the third consecutive year in this championship. Watson went on to tie for fifth and finish second, respectively, on those occasions.
"Yeah, it would be nice to not finish second again and come back with that beautiful trophy; it sure would," he said.
Romero admitted to injuring his back after hitting three drives on the practice range following Thursday’s opening 66. He played his round in mild pain, especially when putting.
"Sometimes it happens with the golf," said the 52 year old Argentine. "But I'm still 1 under and there is two more rounds to go, and then I have to play good on the weekend."